I got off the phone with the assistant "director," of this local tutoring franchise business, and felt really embarrassed. I couldn't believe that we were both in the same industry. The franchise industry. Here's how one five minute phone conversation not only managed to embarrass me, but forced me to become a shopper. (Instead of a buyer)
We're trying to prepare our child for the realities of high school. Her study and test taking skills need some fine-tuning. Smart kid, though 🙂
We decide to check out some tutoring places in our area. Since I'm online ten hours a day, it was up to me to do a search. I found one that came up high in a Google search for "study skills," and made contact with the center. (A franchise)
I explained the situation, and we scheduled a visit for the next week. A tour.
We took the "tour," and then sat down in a nicely appointed office. Programs pertaining to what we felt our child needed were explained in a general way, and in order for her to attend, she had to take an assessment to see how she stacked up. We scheduled this $$ assessment, and took home some materials.
Later that week, I dropped my child off for the assessment.
(Then I picked her back up.)
We scheduled another meeting to see the results, and to find out the cost of the program that was going to be tailored to her needs.
At that meeting, the results of her assessment were presented, along with an estimate for the amount of hours she would need to perfect her study skills. It was more than we thought it would be, and several different "payment options" including financing, were presented. ( I was waiting for the 12 months same as cash spiel, but it never came.)
This is where I started to feel a little uncomfortable. It wasn't just the cost. It was how the "presentation" felt. It felt (pardon the pun) "old school."
I was in a really uncomfortable spot. I wanted the best for my child. I feel that it's my obligation to give my child the best chance of success. But the process that we were going through didn't feel right. It felt kind of "flim-flam." What should have been a really professional, even classy sales pitch, wasn't.
We were offered a couple of different ways to pay. One way allowed us to pay a lower hourly rate.(But we had to buy lots of hours. Lots. Am I being clear enough, here?) The other way was to buy hours in smaller blocks, but it would be more per hour.
Here's where it got weird;
- If we chose to pay the cheaper hourly rate, and buy a huge block of hours up-front, any hours we didn't end up using, for whatever reason-even a good reason, like our child did so well that she just didn't need any more hours kind of a reason, we would receive a refund of those hours, but at the higher rate. (The rate used for folks that didn't buy the hours ahead of time)
- That sounded fair. Not.
This Tutoring Franchise Needs Some Schooling
We asked why they had a silly rule like that in place, and the explanation we received may have been sillier than the silly rule itself. (I think it may have had to do with profit, but I'm not sure.)
Anyway, we left with the paperwork, and told the assistant director that we would be in touch.
The husband-wife consult
My wife and I had a little meeting later in the week, and we decided to bite the bullet, and go with the bulk hourly rate. I called the center, and arranged to bring our child in for her first session, credit card in hand. Actually, I was planning to pay via credit card while I was on the phone, to get it over with.
As the assistant director was taking down my credit card number, I asked about their refund policy. (I wanted to know what it was, just in case this turned out to be a disaster, and their program did not end up helping my child after a month or so.)
She explained that we could cancel the tutoring sessions at any time, as long as we gave two weeks notice. I thought that was fair. She said that sometimes there are other kids waiting for spots, and I certainly didn't want to jeopardize things for them.
Ok. Here it comes………
She said, and I quote, "Of course you do realize that if you decide to stop the program, and give two weeks notice, you'll be charged for those two weeks."
Me: "What? I'm sorry, what was that? You mean to tell me that if we do the right thing, and give a full two weeks notice that we are stopping the program, you're going to charge us for the two weeks that we didn't even use?"
Her: "Yes. We put your daughter in our schedule for those two weeks, and we have it staffed accordingly."
I was beyond uncomfortable at this point. I was even shall I say, pissed. This really didn't feel right. As important as it was for us to get our child prepared for high school, I decided at that moment that I may have to shop around.
I told the assistant director that I was very uncomfortable, and she asked if she should wait until I come in to run my credit card. I told her to please wait.
My wife and I had a discussion that night.
Destroy my credit card information, please
I called the center the day we were supposed to come in and told her to rip up my credit card information. I told her that she was welcome to keep the doors open for us in the future, but that their customer policies and "payment plans" were from the 80's, and that I was going to shop around.
Did the executives at the corporate headquarters of this franchise organization just wake up after 25 years in suspended animation? Do they realize how fast word spreads about stuff like this?
Do they really think it's ok to charge for services that won't ever be used? Do they think it's ok to give their customers a good deal if they pay for too many hours up front, and then refund the money back at a different rate?
I'm not trying to be the next Ralph Nader, here. (But, if you go to this website that I launched last year, you may not believe me)
I'm just really embarrassed. How could a franchise do this? Franchise businesses are supposed to be hip with the times, right. It's those mom and pop businesses that are "old school."
Small Business Owners Take Note
I hope that small business owners, franchise or non-franchise, read this. I may not be the only person who feels this way. I just happen to be able to write about it.
This franchisor needs to spend some money. My friend, Barry Moltz is a customer service (BAM! ) specialist. He could show them how to adapt to a changing mindset. (The one that says that enough is enough with this kind of malarkey.)
Maybe they need to invest some time learning about social media, and how their decades-old customer policies will catch up with them faster than the speed of light, because of social media. (How long do you think it will take for either the local franchisee of this franchise, or even their corporate headquarters to call me about this article?) Do you think anyone will share this post?
I actually have a specific idea for this franchisor;
Call Chris Brogan. Have him come out to your headquarters. Just for one day. He'll get you headed in the right direction. (Before it's too late.)
Heck, have both Barry and Chris come to your headquarters. You need them.
Do something. Don't make me shop around. You almost had my credit card number. Almost.